COLUMBUS, Ohio, March 15. DESPITE cold temperatures in Minnesota, the 2007 Men's NCAA Swimming and Diving Championships got off to a heated start with a NCAA record in the first event of the meet.
200-yard Freestyle Relay
Auburn got off to a quick start today by erasing California's NCAA record in the first event of the meet. As the defending champions in the event, the Tigers earned the top seed tonight when three men split under 19 seconds for a combined time of 1:15.56. Stanford posted the second-fastest time of 1:16.57, while Arizona swam the relay in 1:16.91 for third.
Other teams to swim the event tonight are Texas (1:16.94) and Northwestern (1:16.98), who qualified for the finals in fourth and fifth place, respectively. California hit the wall next in 1:17.21. West Virginia (1:18.18) will swim the event for the second time in seventh place. Florida rounded out the Top 8 in 1:18.27.
Shaun Phillips of Stanford clocked the fastest time of 4:14.82 in the preliminary session of the 500-yard freestyle. Phillips was behind all of the finalists at the 200-yard mark, flipping at 1:41.69. But the senior Cardinal, who finished sixth in the event last year, swam a strong back half to sit in the top spot tonight.
Olympian Larsen Jensen, who came into the meet with the fastest time, swam the mid-distance event in 4:15.05. Despite swimming the fastest 200-yard split, Jensen earned the second-place spot tonight. Freshman Jean Basson of Arizona will make his debut NCAA appearance with the third-fastest time of 4:15.17.
Michigan and Texas each qualified two swimmers for the final heat. Matt Patton shaved two seconds off his entry time to finish in 4:15.64. Teammate Alex Vanderkaay (4:16.02), the brother of last year's reigning champion and NCAA record holder, sits in sixth-place. Longhorns Matt McGinnis (4:15.98) and Michael Klueh (4:17.18) qualified fifth and eight, respectively. Klueh finished fifth in the race last year.
Georgia's Sebastien Rouault completes the final heat, touching in at 4:16.05 for seventh place. A finals-veteran, Rouault took home the bronze medal at the 2006 NCAA Championships.
200-yard Individual Medley
In an extremely close race, Florida swimmers Lucas Salatta and Bradley Ally occupy the Top 2 places in the medley event. Salatta, who finished 11th last year, swam the fastest time of 1:44.27 in the morning to earn a shot at the championships title. Ally hit the wall just behind his teammate at 1:44.32 to qualify second for the finals.
Adam Ritter of Arizona followed just .08 seconds later to fill the bronze-medal position tonight. Last year, the Wildcat was the runner-up to Ryan Lochte, who set a NCAA and American record in the event.
The remaining swimmers won't be far behind, as all five men swam the event under 1:45. As stroke-specialists, Northwestern's Mike Alexandrov (1:44.57) and Matt Grevers (1:44.95) will be a threat on the breaststroke and backstroke legs. Alexandrov posted the fastest split on the breaststroke (29.29), while Grevers bolted ahead with 22.28 on the backstroke. Grevers, also a freestyle sprinter, was the second fastest swimmer of the morning to bring the race home with a split of 25.00.
Gator Shaune Fraser will join his teammates in the finals, turning in the fifth-fastest time of 1:44.67. Auburn Tiger James Wike and Virginia's Pat Mellors were the final two qualifiers. Wike shaved three seconds off his entry time to finish seventh in 1:44.96. Mellors earned the last spot in 1:44.99.
Auburn dominated the sprint event, qualifying four men for finals. Cesar Cielo turned at the 25-yard mark a full tenth faster than his competitors to notch a first-place seed in 18.84. Stanford Cardinal Ben Tobriner-Wildman also swam a sub-19 second sprint for an inside lane tonight. His time was 18.98. Garret Weber-Gale, a senior from Texas, joins the men in the race for the championship, posting the third-fastest time of 19.16.
Tigers were responsible for the next three spots. Bryan Lundquist hit the wall in 19.18 for fourth. Teammates Matt Targett and Scott Goodrich followed in 19.20 and 19.31, respectively.
Apostol Tsagkarakis will swim the event in college for the final time with a seventh-place seed in a time of 19.32. Albert Subirats secured his spot in the final heat with a time of 19.37.
400-yard Medley Relay
With the fastest backstroke (46.15) and butterfly (45.61) splits of the relays, Northwestern qualified first in 3:07.78. Stanford will swim the relay in the runner-up position for the second time today with a time of 3:08.58. Auburn was the third-fastest team in 3:09.20.
Trailing four teams until the final 100 yards, Florida's anchor clocked a 42.80 to finish fourth in 3:09.88. Arizona qualified in fifth place for the finals in 3:10.06. Texas (3:10.37) will swim the relay again tonight in the sixth-place position. Southern Cal and Tennessee fill the final two spots, with USC in seventh with 3:10.59 and Tennessee in eighth with 3:10.79.